Making Commodore 64 disks from disk images
If you have found this page directly from an Internet search (as opposed to a link from my disk imaging introduction page) you have most likely missed some important information. Please click to READ THIS INTRODUCTORY PAGE FIRST. It explains some generic aspects of disk imaging and why, even if you DO have a good disk, it may not work.
Figure 1. The original breadbasket Commodore 64
To make disks like I did you'll need the following hardware:
- A PC with a parallel port.
- One of the X1541 series cables or interface boards (I used an XA1541v2 interface board)
- A Commodore 64 compatible disk drive
- Blank 5.25 inch double density disks in good condition
The X1541 cable goes from (or in the case of an interface, between) the PC's parallel port and the din port on the Commodore drive. It takes advantage of the fact that, unlike most 5.25 inch drives, the Commodore 64 series have their own microprocessor and therefore are somewhat "smarter" than the rest.
I decided on a XA1541 interface board, as it was compatible with Windows XP and seemed more advanced than some of the older ones. I already had the cables. I purchased the adaptor via eBay from NKC Electronics. It is slightly different from that described in the link above as there is no card edge and the name is XA1541v2 not XPA1541. Obviously a variant.
Figure 2. The XA1541v2 interface
Not only are there are a number of different variations of the X1541 cable and/or interface but there are also quite a few different programs for it. My software image repository is a Windows XP machine so I wanted something which would work well with that. I decided on the opencbm/cbm4win combination. This is open source software that is fully compatible with Windows XP and has a nice GUI.
The documentation steps you through setup and testing in a clear, methodical way. Once configured, results were impressive. Using an intuitive interface you could easily control the commodore drive and directly copy an image onto a disk and vice versa.
Figure 2. Cbm4win at work, having just copied Ghostbusters to a real C64 disk
As mentioned above, there are lots of cable/software options available for this task. I've just described one of them. If it's just software you are looking for you might also like to consider the SD2IEC disk drive replacement. It's a nifty device.
The C64 community is a very active one which is always developing new tools so by the time you read this there may other methods available. It would pay to do some research before you plunge in and buy (or make) a cable/interface.
Have fun. There is nothing like revisiting that old C64 experience. Even if the disk drive is as slow as a snail with arthritis, it's still a blast!
Original article 27th December, 2011. Updated 28th July, 2015
P.S. This method should also work for Vic 20 disk images.